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Featured Artist: Dayna Mankowski of Crafty Scientist with Awesome Giveaway!

by EBlack on April 17, 2013

 DM-CS self at shopPublishers Note: What happens when science and fiber art collide?… Dayna Mankowski, that’s what! This mad fiber-scientist has gone from a life of pharmacy work, to knitting, to owning her own fiber shop. Dayna creates naturally developed yarns with unique inspirations drawing from TV shows and music. With full steam ahead, Dayna of Madison Wool is showing us all things are possible in the fiber world when you really love what you do. This is one Crafty Scientist! 


Spin Artiste (SA): You have an extremely unique story that needs to be shared! Can you tell us about your fiber journey?

Dayna Mankowski (DM): Sure! My fiber journey started later in life. I was a driven college student:  5 years of Pharmacy school, then 3 years on a PhD (left with a Master’s degree because I just wanted to GET OUT). I have worked as a Research Scientist in Drug Metabolism at Big Pharma, startups, and at the University level. I now work as a Pharmacist at an Independent Pharmacy part time. I had lavish dinner parties—I love to cook Vegetarian food—as a creative outlet. I learned to knit when I was young, but didn’t get into the fiber arts until I started working in a Research Lab. I started knitting, and became obsessed. I then got into sewing. This was about 2004, and I was getting into the Indie Craft scene—linking up with like-minded crafters on Live Journal, submitting samples to The Sampler, and got a website started to sell my things, and doing craft shows like Bazaar Bizarre, Handmade Arcade, and Maker Faire. I have made some wonderful friends through the craft scene that are my good friends to this day. My craft business is called The Crafty Scientist, and my logo is a cartoon of me knitting a DNA scarf. I have a lot of fun products with a geeky science theme—beaker candles, lunch bags, aprons, etc. I started selling items on a great (now defunct) webshop called Plain Mabel. She had a book for sale, by Lexi Boeger, called ‘Handspun Revolution’. It was $40.00, I had no idea how to spin yarn, but I knew I had to have that book! I ordered it, and knewDM-CS Pharmacology book I needed to make yarn like this. I would purchase art yarns at the craft fairs I vended at, but finally decided to get a wheel from a friend who had an extra one and I taught myself to spin using Shannon Okey’s book ‘Spin to Knit’. I had this old no name castle wheel that needed the treadle oiled, but I stayed up late every night until I could spin on it! I made some cool yarns. I would order tons of batts and fiber from HollyEqq, Urban Fauna, and other fiber artists . I would spin then knit fun things as gifts. I didn’t start selling my yarn and batts until after I went to my first Camp Pluckyfluff at the Spun Monkey (Shannon Herrick’s) studio in 2006. I met some wonderful spinners, and learned how to be creative and how much fun carding is! I got home and ordered a Louet Classic carder (had already purchased a Louet S-10 to replace the old no name wheel), and started making my ‘laboratory batts’—big chunky funky spinning batts loaded with tons of stuff. I then started selling my yarns and batts in my shop and at shows.

SA: Great story! Who knew pharmaceuticals could bring someone to fiber. What motivated such a drastic career change?

DM: I think science and art are very connected, so I don’t always think of my journey as a drastic change. The type of research I was doing I was fortunate enough to get to be creative and use each experiment as a jumping off point for something else. I enjoy so many things, and want to do them all (and some say I do—I have been known to work three jobs!), I would say I left my research career due to a combination of factors—getting really sick with migraine headaches around the chemicals I had to use, and the corporate culture. I’m not really a corporate kind of gal. Working as a Pharmacist is enjoyable at a small community pharmacy vs a chain, so I like to do that. I wish I could still do research sometimes still, but I just don’t want to be as sick as I was with constant migraines.

DM-CS Hanging YarnsSA: Well, afterall, fiber is the best medicine, anyway! What would you say, if any, is the connection between your pharmaceutical background and the fiber art process?

DM: I am very exacting yet spontaneous in my research, as I was fortunate to have a creative, almost academic position at the companies I worked at. With fiber arts, I am totally spontaneous! I rarely write anything down when I dye and I prefer one of a kind handspun yarns and dye lots.

SA: How did you come to be the owner of Madison Wool, and how do you feel about your new endeavor?

DM: Becoming the owner of an established yarn shop happened as a happy accident! I was doing a local yearly Fiber arts fair as The Crafty Scientist in September 2010, and set my tent up next to the Madison Wool tent. We got to talking and buying each other’s merchandise, and as I was walking back to my tent , I noticed the ‘shop for sale’ sign hanging off of her tent. DM-CS Fiber GoodsI went back to ask, and was told the shop was for sale. I jokingly said to my husband, Steve, that we should buy the shop and stop with the small craft shows. He laughed, but I kept thinking about it. It took about 6 months, and I finally took a trip down to the shop to see what it was all about. We became owners mid May 2011 and had our grand opening June 1. I love every day here.

SA: It sounds like you found your place at Madison Wool. What was the process like, transitioning between your Crafty Scientist, web-based, business and, now, a brick-and-mortar business?

DM: Not difficult. I was too busy to list things on the website, so even though the website is still up and has a few items and is really home to my husband’s disc golf scorecard business, I just brought my stock into the shop. I miss doing all the Indie Craft shows, but I still do Stitches East and local farmers markets as Madison Wool. It really helps bring folks into the shop when I take the shop ‘on the road’.

DM-CS Dayna at the SnowballSA: I’m glade to hear you are still doing some farmers markets; it is always nice to get out of the shop and into the community. How has Madison Wool changed in the past year and a half?

DM: Wow! I am amazed at how much the shop has grown! The shop is so different from when I bought it. I am proud to have brought in some wonderful commercial yarns from smaller companies (Fibre Co, Swan’s Island, Shibui) to have real luxury yarns, but I am most proud of the independent fiber artists that I feature at the shop. I think that my Indie Craft connections have helped make me a different sort of yarn shop, because I have such a resource of talented friends to feature! Besides the Crafty Scientist line, I carry yarn and fiber from Sandy Ryan’s Homestead Wool and Gift Farm, The Spun Monkey, Rhinofluff, Pam Blasko, and so many more. I have loads of loose fiber and a drum carder set up, so folks can make batts or just buy fiber for needle felting. I have customers that travel to buy the one of a kind handspun art yarns from Boston and New York on a regular basis, and we are becoming known as a shop to not only buy yarn, but to learn how to spin, felt, weave, and of course, knit! A new customer came in, looked around, and asked ‘what kind of people shop here?”. I get everyone from children to Grandmothers, some making baby blankets and others doing more free form stuff. In general, the Grandmothers are the funky ones! I think young people are too afraid of what people think. I get excited when folks buy handspun and I can explain who makes it, and many times the animal it comes from. I believe it is important to educate the customer about yarn—when people complain about the price of handspun, I try and let them know there is animal husbandry, feed, shearing, vet bills, and finally, the spinning. And that no one is rich making handspun—we do it for the love of it.

SA: I’m sure we can all attest to that! We spin for the love of the art, that is for sure.   How would you describe your spinning style and technique?

DM: I enjoy spinning all kinds of yarns. I am self taught, with a few classes in spinning for color and of course several Camp Pluckyfluffs. I love color, so many times I will treat myself to a Loop batt and spin a simple two ply.DM-CS Yarns
I then go through phases where I love to spin locks, and keep them natural. I have a successful line I developed I call ‘beehive bead’ necklaces—which are just supercoiled yarn lengths that you can wear as a necklace. I sell lots of them at a local winter art show, and I make them for the shop when I have time. The short answer is that I don’t have a specific style or technique.

SA: What excites you about the creative process?

DM: I just love to make stuff! I can’t not be knitting or spinning. I get an idea at midnight and I will be up until 2 am or later making it happen. I never get tired of making things. Customers have asked if I get sick of it, but I don’t think I ever will.

SA: You truly do have fiber on the brain, 24/7. Is there something you can prescribe for that?…I loved your “Portlandia” series of yarn! What inspired you to create this series and, what other series have you done?

DM: I get inspired by music or TV—since I am usually spinning in front of movies or TV or radio. I have done a ‘Tom Waits’ and ‘REM” series –listen to a specific song, card a batt, and spin a yarn. Portlandia is one of the shows I watch when I spin, and I felt the regular characters should be immortalized in fiber. More to come with this series!

DM-CS Wheel PlanterSA: What can you tell us about your studio?

DM: My home studio, which is sadly unused these days, houses my fabric and sewing machines plus a bit of a fiber stash. In my home, I have a wheel in front of the TV and fiber and batts to spin lining a hallway. I consider the shop my studio now. I am surrounded by wheels for sale and for class use, so I get to play with whatever wheel speaks to me.

SA: Wow, sounds like the shop is a spinner’s heaven! What wheels are you using these days, at home and the shop?

DM: At home, I use my trusty Louet S-10, or a Majacraft Pioneer with the wild flyer attachment. At the shop, I have a Babe, an Aura, and a Country Spinner to play with, along with Louet S-10 and S-17. I’ve been really enjoying spinning thin on the Country Spinner, go figure!

SA: What can you tell us about your fiber art classes? And what is your favorite aspect of teaching?

DM: Because I still work a lot as a Pharmacist, I haven’t really put myself out there to teach much. I’m hoping to be at the shop full time as things progress, but I am fortunate to have an amazing stable of talented teachers that are so good at what they do. I have been teaching beginning needle felting to local groups and children, and that has been fun. I teach a few knitting classes, but haven’t put myself out there to teach spinning yet. I am always helping customers with their problems, so I guess I do teach daily! I do build each wheel that comes in and teach the new owner how to use them properly.

SA: As a business owner and fiber art distributor, I’m sure you work closely with many other fiber artists. How have your connections with other artists influenced your work?

DM: I am fortunate to know so many talented fiber artists, and they are wonderful to let me feature their work. It has been helpful to both of us—many folks discover a particular artist they love and they request more of their yarn, and the exposure in a shop is always better for makers of art yarn. I get inspired when I open a box of yarn from a talented spinner, and get ideas for my own yarn sometimes—color combos and textures always get my wheels turning.DM-CS stitches

SA: I’m sure as grateful as you are to glean from so many other artists, they are also grateful to be featured at your amazing shop. Speaking of the shop, when you’re not at there, what are you up to?

Well, I’m usually at the shop. BUT, if I do have some time, I like to get out and play disc golf with my husband (part of the shop sells disc golf supplies). I enjoy the theater, live music, and good food too. I always have a knitting project with me for sure!

SA:  Dayna, thank you so much for sharing some of the details of your world of fibery goodness.  You put in a lot of hard work and it shows!

Readers, Dayna was one of our Leather and Lace artists and hosted the collection at Madison Wool as well.  The last chance to see the collection in person is this weekend at the SWAY Guild Art Yarn Festival in Sarasota, Florida.  If you didn’t see the collection in person and can’t come visit us this Saturday, you can order a copy of the book on the project featuring all new photos of the yarns — see this post for details.  Additionally, after the festival, I will be bringing back some copies to sell and will have them available for order here at Spin Artiste.

OK, now onto giveaway time!!!  Dayna has two wonderful items for you:

DMCS - Dream of Spring Batt

Dream of Spring Batt

DMCS - strinsilkofpearls

‘Strin/silk of pearls’ necklace made from wool/silk/sparkle wrapped on a wool/silk core

How pretty and perfect for this time of year!  Now, to win one of these fabulous prizes, we want to hear about your dreams.  Dayna is living out one of mine (to own a yarn store).  What is your fibery dream?  Commenting on this post gets you a chance to win — add your preference of item if you have one.  The first person’s number selected will get their first choice.  The second person’s number selected will get the other item.  You can get additional chances by sharing on Facebook, Twitter, etc. and/or liking Madison Wool on Facebook.  Entries must be received by Wednesday, April 24th at 5:00 PM to be eligible.  Best of luck to all!



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